Sunday, July 6, 2014

Ganondagan in the rain...

Ganondagan Medicinal Plant Walk
SUNDAY, July 13, 2014 at 11:00 AM 

 Seneca elders teach that since plants support us, we in turn acquire responsibilities toward plant life, such as giving thanks to the Creator and living in balance with the natural world. We’ll be enjoying our walk along the Ethnobotanical Trail with Whitney Carlton at this historical site of the Seneca people; one of the six nations comprising the Iroquois Confederacy.
Seven Botanical members braved the pouring rain and stormy weather to meet Whitney Carleton at Ganondagan on Sunday, July 13th.  We first watched an informative video about Ganondagan in the dry visitor center where we learned that the replica Long House is sided with authentic fabricated elm bark!  Whitney began our tour by introducing us to Angelica which is a non toxic medicinal plant in the wild parsnip family. Angelica has a compound leaf and umbel shaped flower. A very toxic relative in the parsnip family is hogweed. Whitney assured us that the toxic burning hogweed is not present at the 570 acre Ganondagan site at this time. 
Here is a recent article from the Daily Messenger about hog weed in Naples as well as more information from the NYS DEC and SUNY BROCKPORT

Instead of a walk along the Ethnobotanical Trail we agreed to hear about Whitney’s role at Ganondagan through the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation and the NY Works Task Force.  Whitney walked us toward the Long House (to seek shelter from the rain) where we heard more about her role to help in the removal of invasive species at Ganondagan.

On our way to the Long House we stopped to see a Great Tree of Peace: a White Pine
The White Pine is a symbol of peace and unification for the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois).  It grows very tall and straight and so can be seen from very far away.  The needles or long leaves keep their green color all year long which is a symbol for constant watchfulness and alertness. The needles grow in bundles of five, which is a reminder of the original Five Nations, the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga and Seneca Nations. The White Pine and all of the trees are part of the web of life and so are important in making sure that life as we know it can continue. The White Pine and all of the trees are greeted and thanked each day by the Haudenosaunee. The Peacemaker uprooted a White Pine and asked the people to throw their weapons of war into the hole so that the people of the future would not have to experience war.  (Thus, the expression “Bury the Hatchet”)The tree was replanted and is referred to as The Great Tree of Peace.  It is said to have four White Roots of Peace which reach north, south, east and west to the ends of Turtle Island. The four White Roots of Peace are a symbolic invitation to all peoples to accept peace.

Whitney pointed out Plantago major ("broadleaf plantain" or "greater plantain") which was believed to be one of the first plants to reach North America after European colonization. Reportedly brought to the Americas by Puritan colonizers, plantain was known to the Iroquois as "white man's footprint" due to how it thrived in the disturbed and damaged ecosystems surrounding European settlements.  Whitney demonstrated how one may eat the top third inch of the flower stalk three times a day for three days to help repel mosquitoes by altering one’s perspiration.  masticated plantain can be used to heal open wounds.

Once safely in the long house Whitney told us about the pale swallow-wort (introduced from Ukraine in the 1860s) which is non-native and invasive smothering the native species.  The roots of the swallow-wort send out toxic chemicals that inhibit the growth of surrounding plants.  Swallow-wort (kin to and visibly similar to young milkweed) threatens monarch butterflies by crowding out milkweed where the butterflies lay eggs and their larvae feed. Monarchs lay eggs on swallow-wort leading to larval death. Swollow-wort needs to be removed by digging out the root which is two inches below the surface.  By simply pulling it out of the ground the root bulb will separate and cause it to multiply.  Whitney explained that they are trying to eradicate the swallow-wort by controlled mowing (to keep the wind dispersing seed from forming) and plan to remove the top four inches of topsoil with a bulldozer which will be contained in an enclosed compost area to be destroyed.  Ground fill from the construction of the new educational center will be used to replace the removed top soil and replanted as a butterfly garden by the Seneca Park Zoo.
Whitney holds pale swallow wort that she snapped off below bottom most leaves.

swallow wort along side common milkweed
flowering swallow wort

With a break in the rain we ventured back out to observe native plants and the Creator’s Garden.

American Hazelnut
 ginger - has maroon flowers
Spicebush: Whitney shared several uses by the Iroquois
black raspberries: there is an importance to eating fruits "in season" which have benefits nutritionally and also in a way that they help us to "slow down" to harvest and eat them
garlic mustard

tree of heaven and honeysuckle roots ready to burn
bloodroot transplants - taken from private property with permission from the property owners and after thanks was given for the earth's provisions.  When collecting species to transplant, the first and second plants will be passed over until a third site is found.  Gatherer will then center back to the main source of the species for transplants.
crown vetch - great for underground erosion control
flower looks like a crown
Unknown species....any help from our colleagues?

Scarlet beebalm
Mullein - European introduction with several practical and medicinal uses
Several other species with medicinal worth were seen: columbine, black cohosh, elderberry, coltsfoot, catnip, culvers root, etc. 
Whitney shared this rhyme as a help to identify different species:
 Sedges have edges, and rushes are round,
But grasses have nodes easily found.

 And finally back to the visitor center where the Three Sisters Garden grows
And this serviceberry tree (also called Juneberry and Shadblow) with cherry seeds drying to be used in rattles
During a non-rainy day, I plan to return to Ganondagan with my camera to walk along the interpretive Ethnobotanical Trail.  Please know that the trails are free of charge whenever Ganondagan is open.

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